And now, the second part of the NEMHF 2009 report.
Don't Actually Go To The Festival Day
The number of bands I was actually interested in on the second day of this year's fest was somewhat restricted; nevertheless, I still saw a bunch, on the idea that you never discover a good band when you skip their set because you think they suck. It didn't exactly work out that way, but it was an entertaining time and I got more value out of my second-day ticket.
I heard this band as I was doing my last merch run; decent, but not superlative hardcore that may grade out higher for genre fans -- and lower for those into the Finnish doom band of the same name, especially if they think bands should do more research before picking a fairly generic name.
Book of Black Earth [5.5/7]
I wasn't super impressed with them when I saw them supporting Watain, or with their record, but glad I went downstairs for them here. This was a good set with a frickin huge sound, showing the band moving in the direction of Nachtmystium....or Doomriders on a huge Satyricon kick. Some people may bitch about the future of black metal, but no band is responsible for who they influence, and these guys are still playing good music.
After dropping my stuff at the hotel, I ran into them coming the other way and gave some appreesh; they probably thought it was insincere given the circumstances, but it was fully meant, and yes, I did see them. I got back in, after getting lunch off the eats truck, a little earlier than intended, and found the running order in disarray. Oh well; better to stick, though, from now on.
The Ghost Inside [5.5/7]
This band put up some nice SoCal hardcore, with a solid performance, but didn't really break free of the mold at any point. The floor liked them enough to pile up at several points, which is a distinguishing mark of good HC; though I prefer a little harder, this was still a good time.
Suicide Silence [5/7]
A surprise add, but nothing surprising or particularly novel in the set. It seriously felt like each breakdown was preciselt the same as the one before, which kind of befits this band as the ne plus ultra of their style. They're closer to death metal than their imitators, but the new song, not so much; decidedly weaker in comparison to the rest of their material.
If you were here and thought some mainstage band's sound was fucked up, it was probably the drum micing. The cymbals were all but gone for Suicide Silence's set, and subjects of extensive hotfixing throughout Thy Will Be Done.
Thy Will Be Done [5/7]
The new material they rolled out here sounds pretty much exactly the same as the old stuff; well, old for this name, not going back to when they were Kobalt or anything. This was a decent metalcore performance, but it's bands like this that really make you glad of the short setlists rather than cursing them.
Back en route to the head and the bar area, I saw Doc (God Forbid) joking with a female friend, telling her he was going to get her tossed for stalking him or the suchlike. This is the cool fan-participation part of the fest; in addition to this and the BoBE encounter above, I saw members of Suffocation and Withered in the audience on Friday, just thrashing out and hanging around like anyone else. We are they and they am us.
In addition to Metalfest at the Palladium, this was also the first of a two-date stand by the current incarnation of the Grateful Dead at the hockey arena down the street, and as a result the hippies were out in full force. I got solicited like twice to buy the Bhagavad-Gita by some epically confused Krishnas -- what part of "No Jesus, No Beast" do they think doesn't also apply to their fairytales? Ok, maybe they just don't listen to Immolation, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't.
If this band is serious, their level of success is a biting indictment of a certain segment of the underground. If, however, they're not, and are subtly trolling the world of Myspacecore, they are the best troll band since Composted, and a lot of dudes are going to be stammering declamations that they knew it was a gag all along. Maybe they are for srs, but coming out jamming to "Final Countdown" with your singer in a Furby costume kind of argues against that. There was some irony in these guys following Thy Will Be Done; the sound in their riff portions was often similar, whether for the lulz or not. We'll see how they go; not really sure they're good enough to pay attention to without the gag portion.
Austrian Death Machine [5/7]
If these guys were serious, we would be right fucked. Fortunately, though, this outfit is a supergroup built out of a piss-take project from the singer of As I Lay Dying (or "As I Lay Crying", as "Ahnold" apparently says on their record, which is probably more apt), and even if the music is pretty pedestrian and the gags not as funny as Composted, it's certainly better than the alternative.
Tim (AILC -- okay, AILD) commented that they hadn't rehearsed at all going into this show, and it showed; Ken Susi spent the entire set with his axe at his waist rather than behind his head. Alternately, maybe he woodshedded his parts solo and re-learned how to play in a more normal position so as not to take attention away from the dude in the Governator kigurumi. (Warning: link unrelated and not safe for sanity.)
All Shall Perish [5.5/7]
If they'd gone on longer, this might bump up higher, but that's the breaks at this festival. Here, just full-on brutal HC/metalcore, but when this style makes you go "already?" instead of "finally!" when they announce that they're closing up, you know they're doing something right. Yeah, "Hatebreed Junior" maybe, but Hatebreed isn't playing this year.
Winds of Plague [5/7]
Though this deathcore band wears their death metal influences on their sleeves (viz prominent Morbid Angel and Nile quotes in this set), they were never really able to generate separation for themselves as a band. The sound may have had something to do with it -- not cutting as strong as on the bands preceding and following -- but the responsibility's got to come back to the music, in the end, to overcome the PA and present the band as worth paying attention to.
An egregious pick point about this band, because I am a wicked language nerd. They are apparently weeaboos, as they have samurais and Japanese characters all over their shit. Despite this, they insist on transcribing their name into kanji not as [Winds of Plague], but [Wind] [of] [Plague]. To paraphrase Morbo, JAPANESE DOES NOT WORK LIKE THAT. So, instead of "Winds of Plague", Aggressive Dogs, for example (also on this fest, but I didn't realize it until after their set), would read "Plague of Winds"....and probably laugh at them, which is about deserved.
No Hatebreed allusions on this band; Hatebreed is more interesting than this and not as clunky. You can't question the CTHC commitment in wearing a hoodie in the freaking sauna that was the downstairs at this point, as the singer did for about three-quarters of their set, but commitment on its own does not write interesting music.
Municipal Waste [7/7]
There wasn't to this point, a single set that on its own would stand above the rest and justify the $80 ticket. This was it: Municipal Waste killing it while dressed as hippies (purchased from the fan faire surrounding the Grateful Dead caravan) and staying in character between songs, Tony climbing on top of a speaker stack and stripping to his underwear, then yanking it up into his crack and dancing around to "Bangover". This bout of comic insanity shows why the Waste continue to be originators, not imitators, and the rock-solid musical performance paints them as a true crossover band rather than merely revivalists. If you missed this set, you missed Day 2.
God Forbid [6.5/7]
They finally have a new goddamned record out, and for a shortish set, this was a hell of an intro to it. Dallas was out (probably for good and allegedly as a result of some epically failing internet drama), but ably subbed for by Kris from Darkest Hour, and the rest of the band continued at the expected high level of a solid performance of the first order. Yes, it probably wasn't abstractly better than some of the other hardcore/metalcore sets here, but I'm a fan, and beyond that, God Forbid has survived into the age of Suicide Silence and Job For A Cowboy for a reason. I like this band, but even at an intellectual distance, they did a hell of a set here that ought to go a significant way towards confirming their cred with other people.
Children of Bodom [6/7]
Again, too fucking short of a set, and there were some phasing problems between Alexi and Janne (likely, blame the PA again, as ever in this building), but at least they kept mostly good songs in. This needs some clarification -- mostly good songs from the perspective of someone who still likes the band, but somehow has continually avoided owning anything later than Hatebreeder. Metalfest strikes again -- more on-the-same-page-ness and another half hour of time would have been fucking balls.
At this point, it's reasonable to note that I bailed, each night, with two bands including the nominal headliner remaining, and have spent much of these last two posts bitching about short set times and the multiplicity of bands that suck; bearing these factors in mind, it's fair to ask why I still go to this fest, when MDF is only marginally more expensive and more requiring of time off from work. I have problems with this too, sometimes, but the final answer seems to be that I am a New England metalhead, and this is my festival too. Yes, NEDF is more 'ours', but that doesn't make this fest any less so. I wish that the bands were better, or that there were fewer of them (and better, obviously), that this was outdoors with a $30 camping fee instead of indoors with a godawful hotel bill, that the organizers would make an effort to keep the schedule on schedule, or to notify people when and how it gets fucked up, but when all is said and done, Scott et al do a decent enough job of bringing in bands from all over, and manage to make money off it in the bargain, which ensures that this fest, as with any fest, can continue.
This is not, as they hype themselves, the best metalfest in the world; it's not even the best of its type, as With Full Force is in every way a functioning superset of this festival, plus all of the enhancements wished for above, but it remains the best multi-spectrum metalfest in the US. Someday, MDF or maybe NEDF will move outside and displace it as the best unilaterally; Built To Last is already better among hardcore/punk fests indoors. Until then, though, NEMHF will remain in its place of preeminence, and I will probably keep going...and as befits people in my demographic, the old dudes in kuttes who automatically reject anything that doesn't sound like Kreator, probably keep grousing about it.
Status update, because I forgot to do it before:
Total points Friday: 74.5
Average Friday: 5.32
Total points Saturday: 68.5
Average Saturday: 5.27
Festival total average: 5.3
Again, if you skip the bands that you don't like and the ones you do don't get jobbed, this is actually a pretty decent festival...but now that MDF has announced that their mainstage is going to be outside, I'm bummed that I didn't give this a pass and go down for that one. Of course, I've got to move apartments this month and I think my buddy's getting married that weekend, so I wouldn't be able to go anyway, but still. The only caution is that once you go to one of these, you're going to turn into an insufferable git like me who has problems associating 'festival' with anything that isn't also 'open-air'.